So as anyone and everyone knows, instinctively I would assume, that when you hop onto a tram/ train/ bus you sit in the least occupied clump of chairs. If there is no unoccupied clump of chairs, then you sit in the next least occupied, as far as possible from the other person. Only when most of these seats fill up do you sit right next to someone, and if it gets any more crowded then you do not scruple to stand and rest your bag on someone’s head while being smooshed into someone else’s armpit.
While this seems to be common enough practice that it was written about in my Communications text book in the section on personal space (they’ve done studies apparently, it’s a proven phenomenon!), some people just don’t seem to get it. At the risk of sounding racist, these people are almost always international students of Asian and Indian origin. Sometimes you get the odd old person getting all up in your personal bubble unnecessarily, but it’s usually because they plonk down in the first available seat out of fear of breaking another hip.
I was on the tram the other day, it was completely empty. Just me and the driver, who I think was feeling a bit lonely becuase he kept alerting me as to what roads we were approaching through the microphone. A girl came on, obviously Asian (and wearing high heels to uni which is something I will NEVER understand) and sat down RIGHT NEXT TO ME. There were ABOUT 40 OTHER SEATS FOR HER TO CHOOSE FROM plus I had my knitting so there were pointy needles flying about dangerously, and elbows jutting out violently. But no, she seemed content to be battered incessantly with my limbs. Which I don’t understand.
Maybe this personal space/ spread as far as possible thing is a social practice completely unknown and foreign to her. She could just be very space frugal. Or maybe she wanted a brief human connection…
Did she miss the crowded conditions of China? Or the violent kerfuffle on the trains of Tokyo? Is Australia’s population too little and too widely spaced for her… did it make her homesick?
I guess I’ll never know, but next time someone sits that little bit too close to me I might just give them a big hug, clutch them to my bosom, and say, ‘I know how homesick you are. There, there. Cry on my shoulder! I’ll be your family! We can sit down for a home cooked meal and watch Packed to the Rafters and bask in domestic bliss!’
If it doesn’t make them feel better then at least I’ll freak them out enough to move away from me into an emptier seat.